Animals as Leaders are an interesting topic of conversation from the standpoint of prominence. With their 2009 debut, the band blew everyone's mind. There wasn't a chunk of 30-minutes that would go by that you weren't reading about the band (or least Tosin Abasi) or watching a thread endlessly unravel about their musicianship. Then the band dropped Weightless in 2011 and it just seemed like everyone was a little underwhelmed. The songs weren't "songs" anymore but rather exercises in technicality and general wankery. The addition of electronica elements was plenty interesting, but Weightless felt more like a misstep than it did a follow-up.
Now the addition of Matt Garstka on drums, the return of co-writer Misha Mansoor and the ever-present guitar duo that defy the laws of what should be possible on a guitar – Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes – Animals as Leaders return to form and then some with The Joy of Motion.
The Joy of Motion is everything Weightless should have been and wasn't. The Joy of Motion seamlessly blends Animals and Leaders' usual technicality with all the electronica elements introduced on the former, for one thing. It feels much less forced than it did on Weightless and really compliments the writing rather than seeming like an afterthought or even a perceived necessity in the music.
Then there's the riffs and memorability of the music, which is where The Joy of Motion goes right over the top into something worth throwing your money at in whatever capacity the album is released. We've heard "Lippincott" and (arguably the worst song on the record) "Tooth and Claw," but how do the others stack up? The answer is simply "head and shoulders over them."
"Lippincott" is a solid example of what the album has to offer but sticks a little too closely to familiar territory to really represent The Joy of Motion. Songs like "Another Year" make you wonder where the hell riffs like the ones in the song have been on the past two albums with their jazzy finger style catchiness, while "Physical Education" is everything great about an eight-string jammed into one song. Taking that a step further, "Physical Education" could fit into a side-scrolling RPG game and nobody would even question it.
The Joy of Motion doesn't get overly ambitious with ideas. The album is a comfortable listen through a whole slew of new ideas and techniques for the band, but feels so natural for them. If there's any instrumental record you're jamming this year incessantly, I'm willing to bet it's going to be The Joy of Motion.